Monday 21 May 2018

Robinson Crusoe (Vincent Kesteloot / Ben Stassen, 2016)

If the school holidays are looming (as, let's face it, they always seem to be), you could do far worse than fish out Kesteloot and Stassen's Robinson Crusoe (AKA The Wild Life), which is exactly the sort of cheerful, colourful option you need on standby during such times.  While Robinson Crusoe may be made by a studio (nWave) who don't have the same clout or resources as the likes of Dreamworks or Pixar, it's really not too far behind the standard of the recent output from both of those Hollywood powerhouses.  This film was released between Belgian nWave's The House of Magic and Son of Bigfoot, and although it's not their most recent movie it nevertheless features the best 3D animation of all their films to date.

As its instantly recognisable title flags up, Robinson Crusoe is based on the classic 1719 novel in which the eponymous character is shipwrecked on a remote, uninhabited island.  Well, uninhabited by other humans, that is, as there's plenty of exotic fauna on display (including a tapir, a goat, an echidna and a chameleon), and the film neatly inverts the emphasis of Daniel Defoe's book so that the story is really about the animals; Crusoe is really just another character who has to fit into the community the creatures have created on their island paradise.

As the human interloper gatecrashes the animal party, all are suspicious and/or fearful of the new arrival with the exception of parrot Mak, who yearns to escape his idyllic lifestyle and explore the bigger, busier world.  Crusoe dubs his new ally "Tuesday" (a nod to the book's human counterpart known as "Friday"), and the bird tries to convince his fellow creatures that this visitor means them no harm.  Who does mean them harm, however, is a pair of very mean cats who also survived the shipwreck and now have their own agenda for the island and its inhabitants.   Thus, Crusoe and the animals need to join forces if they're to see off these moggy invaders.  Cats frequently get a very raw deal in films, coming second only to snakes when it comes to anthropomorphised bad guys; the ones featured here are as scheming and cruel as The House of Magic's Thunder is cute and cuddly.

As mentioned earlier, there's plenty of appealing, high quality animation to enjoy here, with the rendering of the cats being especially impressive.  So, do keep this one in mind for a rainy afternoon during the next school holidays (alternatively, keep it on ice for a year then crack it open to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the book's first publication).  Robinson Crusoe is a fun and enjoyable spin on a classic tale, and a film in which nWave once again demonstrates how to get the most out of stereoscopic animation.

Darren Arnold

Images: nWave